Wenger: Sagas drained Gunners

Having previously insisted contract rebel Nasri would not be sold,

Wenger admitted he simply could not hold on to someone who was not

committed to the Gunners in the long-term. Arsenal announced Nasri

would be travelling to Manchester for a medical shortly before they

boarded a plane to Italy for tomorrow night’s crunch Champions

League play-off round second leg at Udinese. The timing was no

coincidence, the Gunners keeping their fans – and possibly City –

guessing until the last minute whether the France star would be on

the flight after he trained with his soon-to-be-former team-mates

this morning. However, playing Nasri tomorrow night would have

cup-tied him, thereby knocking millions off his transfer value.

City are reportedly paying in the region of £24million for the

24-year-old, a figure Wenger admitted represented good business if

it meant not losing the midfielder for nothing next summer. But the

loss of Nasri remains another blow for the beleaguered Wenger, who

last week lost an even longer fight to keep captain Cesc Fabregas

out of the clutches of Barcelona. Wenger said: “The summer was very

difficult because we had Cesc Fabregas and Nasri on permanent

transfer negotiations and that is draining in the end. “We lost two

great players and that’s a sad side of the story but at some stage

it has to be over, because you want to focus on the future.” Yet,

with £10million in prize-money on the line tomorrow, Wenger

might have gambled on playing Nasri and taking a hit on his

transfer fee. He said: “You cannot think only about one game in the

season and the decision had a logic but it is of course, as well, a

business interest. “But, overall, what you want is that you have

players who do not play and think they go the next morning. It’s

not ideal as well. “So you want players who are completely

committed to the long-term, to defend our chances.” Wenger admitted

he was now short in midfield and would need to move quickly to fill

the void, with the transfer window closing in little over a week.

Rennes’ Yann M’Vila has been linked, as has Lille’s Eden Hazard,

although the latter’s club has insisted their man is not for sale.

Phil Jagielka has long been a reported target, while Wenger tonight

denied making any move for Lazio’s Mauro Zarate and Fiorentina’s

Riccardo Montolivo. Asked if it was naive to think the Nasri deal

could have been finalised sooner to avoid such a late rush, Wenger

said: “It’s not naive but what you forget maybe is that it doesn’t

depend only on us. “We wanted to sort all these cases out very

early after the summer, but it wasn’t possible. “And the pace is

not only dictated by us, unfortunately.” Wenger also warned his

remaining players he would not tolerate them using the departures

of Nasri and Fabregas as “an excuse” for failing to perform. He

added: “You’re always concerned of the consequences it can have on

the team. “It can as well have a positive consequence. “If you’re

strong mentally, you can increase the solidarity, knowing you’ll

have to fight more, and that’s what you ideally want from strong

mentally players.” Wenger insisted he was tough enough to cope with

the traumatic fortnight that he is currently enduring, which has

brought no end of injuries and suspensions – both for himself and

his players – as well as misery on the transfer front. Asked if

this was the most challenging time he has faced in his 15 years in

charge, he said: “I believe that’s part of my job. I’m not at all

destabilised by that. “Overall, my job is to give my best to do

well for my club and that’s what I do with complete belief in the

team and the players I have available. “I think that’s the best

opportunity to show as well that we are good enough to fight for

this club.” Failing to make the Champions League group stages would

represent a new low and Wenger was wary of the threat of Udinese,

who only trail 1-0 after the first leg. Singling out dangermen

Mauricio Isla and Antonio Di Natale, he added: “We need a good,

solid defensive performance. “But we have experience in the

Champions League and that’s a good way to use it tomorrow night.”